Last Update: 04/18/16
Florida real estate professionals are vital to Florida’s real estate industry because they are the people who work to connect sellers with buyers. They take homes, condos, townhouses, mobile homes, apartment complexes, and commercial properties from the step of putting out the “For Sale” sign to getting all of the parties to the real estate closing table and the deal completed. It’s a big job, and reputable and honest Florida real estate agents and Florida real estate brokers work hard and honorably to help people wanting to buy as well as people wanting to sell real estate.
In fact, these Florida real estate professionals have such an important role in the Florida real estate industry that they are vetted through a licensing procedure established by the Florida Legislature and they are seen by the Florida courts to be “fiduciaries” to those they represent.
Under Florida law (Florida Statutes 475.001 et seq), real estate agents and real estate brokers are regulated for the protection of the Florida consumer in ways that include:
- Agents and brokers must pass tests to meet minimum knowledge standards before they are legally allowed to work in Florida.
- They must keep up with current laws and legal requirements through continuing education classes every year.
- Real estate brokers in Florida must carry errors and omissions insurance coverage in the event of a mistake (just like lawyers and doctors are required to do with their malpractice coverage).
- Real estate agents must work under the oversight of a real estate broker here in Florida as an added protection to the consumer here.
Additionally, the State of Florida established a Division of Real Estate within the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to supervise Florida’s real estate industry. This is the governing agency that oversees the testing of people who want to become a real estate agent or broker. For example, in order to pass the 2013 Florida Real Estate Sales Associate Examination, the Florida Agency will require proof that the applicant passed with a grade of 75 or higher or that he or she made at least a 30 on the Florida Real Estate Law Exam.
Claims Against Florida Realtors: Bases for Lawsuits Against Florida Brokers and Florida Agents
Given that the Florida real estate industry is so heavily regulated, it makes sense that this is a profession where claims are made based upon controversies surrounding the process of marketing and selling real estate. There’s a reason for all the regulation here: sellers and buyers are sometimes in an unequal relationship, they are in a position of reliance and trust, with real estate agents and real estate brokers — and bad actors in the real estate industry can mean that people get seriously hurt, financially and otherwise.
Among the many different kinds of claims that people file against Florida real estate professionals are:
- Contract disputes over interpretation of contract language (e.g., earnest money or escrow dispute)
- Breach of contract claims
- Breach of fiduciary duty claims
- Fraud based on claims of failure to disclose defects (such as plumbing leaks or flood risk)
- Fraud based upon claims of intentional misrepresentation of the property’s value
- Fraud based upon claims of intentional misrepresentation regarding risk of flooding
- Violation of Florida Consumer Protection laws
- Violation of federal fair housing laws
In these lawsuits, money damages can be sought, based upon contract damages, as well as fraud claims, where punitive (punishment) or exemplary damages may be available under Florida law.
Lawsuits involving Realtors can seek things besides money, as well: plaintiffs can request specific performance (force the contract or a part of the contract to be completed) or they can ask the judge to grant them a temporary or permanent injunction against the broker or agent taking a specific action.
A good piece of advice is to at least speak with an experienced Florida real estate lawyer to learn about your rights. Most real estate lawyers, like Larry Tolchinsky, offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
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